(NOTE: As the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals continue to accelerate, more and more US schools will be categorized by the pejorative brand: “Program Improvement School”. NCLB’s kiss of death. By 2014 as many as 90% of America’s schools could be categorized as underperforming “Program Improvement” schools. Perhaps it provides a handy label for politicians to rail on public education in general… but inside our schools, where we know our children’s names and faces, it is a different story.
This is the FIRST POST IN A SERIES as Mueller Charter School awaits its test results from the 2007-08 school year.)
I watched Sport Center last night and the announcer declared that the Yankees beat the Red Sox with 5 runs, on 8 hits and 1 error. The Red Sox had 4 runs on 7 hits and 1 error. Game over. Just like that. Spectacular drama reduced to a box score.
All of the human emotion and energy was drained from the page and forever deposited into the timeless vaults of Major League Baseball. All that was left behind were shelled peanuts and Bronx beer cups and a lost binocular case: the predictable debris of 55,000 spectators and a national television audience. Soon all that would be swept away too. But not the box score.
So where in this infinite compression of events does the box score reflect that an outfielder played the game of his young career or that an old veteran pinch-hit in the 8th and struck out—leaving two runners stranded and causing management to question his future in the game. Or that a maple bat shattered on a foul ball and flew into the stands just missing an eight year old girl who had turned to look for the vendor selling cotton candy. Or that the pitchers in the bullpen spit sunflower seeds on each other and flirted with the girls in Section 107 and that one of them got a date. Or that an umpire made an embarrassingly bad call on a routine play at second only to stumble as he jogged back out to his position beyond the infield grass. The fans who were jeering him hesitated long enough to laugh as he nearly face planted within view of a momentarily hostile world.
55,000 fans left with new memories forever fixed. “Remember that game we saw at Yankee Stadium just before they tore it down? When was that… 2007?… 08” Lives were enriched, But not the box scores.
And yes there is a point here.
At Mueller Charter School we await the return of our students’ test scores– now just weeks away. A year’s worth of collaboration, energy, focused effort, commitment, heartbreak, tears, momentary triumphs, wins and losses—will all be reduced to a few lines. A box score.
“Did you meet your AYP goals?”
“Did you make significant gains on the Academic Performance Index?”
“Did you go into Program Improvement?”
“Did you prove your worth on the planet as a charter school?”
And we will answer: “But what about the lives we touched? The lives we SAVED? The families we successfully linked with health care insurance… the kids that climbed out of the basement referred to as Far Below Basic… the kids who we sheltered while their father was sent to prison in Central California… the teacher who was ready to quit until she found salvation in her extraordinary students… the strides we made in utilizing formative data to make strategic adjustments… the hundreds of students who now have enough of a foundation in English to compete academically—even if it wasn’t soon enough to benefit this year’s box score…”
“What about the community of teachers and learners and families who will declare last year a tremendous success, who will return from summer vacation energized regardless of what shows up in the box scores? What about our indomitable spirit– the “this is our year”, the no quit, no excuses, no turning back– the community invested in the success of their kids?”
Who knows. When we get our results back at the end of July we may conclude that we have finally overcome the adverse effects of poverty and the economy and family mobility and the challenges of learning English as a second language and that we actually met the AYP and API and PI expectations. The data may authenticate the most productive year in the 15-year history of Mueller as a charter school. The Board and media and world community may then suddenly sit up and take notice: “Wow. How about that Mueller Charter School. How did they do it?” Or not.
In either case we know for certain that a single box score out of context cannot predict whether the Yankees or the Red Sox will win the American League East. Just as we know that the complex drama of teaching and learning and human relationships and keeping children whole– cannot be meaningfully reduced to a box score.